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WCRI Wrap-up

With a day and a drive to reflect on the WCRI conference, there’s much to be taken away.

Attendance was high.  Over the last decade, WCRI has become a must-attend for many payers and regulators, and as a result the number of service entities at the conference has grown steadily.  That’s good; all stakeholders need to hear what’s happening, share ideas, and debate solutions.

WCRI’s growing use and acceptance of social media is impressive.  Andrew Kenneally was tweeting away through every session, and there were several other media folks there live blogging (including your trusty author).  They’ve gone out of their way to make our work easier, and the benefits for WCRI can be measured in the media mentions – which were likely in the gazillions.

From a content perspective, it was (with one exception) perhaps the best I’ve attended.  WCRI’s done an admirable job “freshening” their data: a past criticism was that the research was based on data that was quite dated, and therefore was not actionable.  The research we heard about this week reflected information from November 2011 – quite an improvement.

The discussion of guidelines was (generally) quite good – a solid explanation and background, a necessary albeit discouraging discussion of challenges getting docs to comply with guidelines, and a good synopsis of some key results in the non-WC world. There was also a review of some WC-specific results (I would have liked more results, but that’s a quibble). Prof. Wickizer’s summary was excellent, altho some of the citations were dated.

Some came away from that talk lamenting that they hadn’t heard much they hadn’t heard before.  I hadn’t either, but in fairness those I spoke with have very long and deep experience in this area; several could have given the talk themselves.  For many attendees, it was “new news”.

The focus on opioids on day two was absolutely on point.  I have the uneasy feeling most payers, actuaries, and rating agencies have yet to consider the financial impact of long-term opioid usage – and when they do it’s going to be really ugly.

OperationUNITE’s Karen Kelly gave a presentation on the human impact of opioid abuse that was terrifying.  In some counties in Kentucky, over half the kids are in households with NO PARENTS.  In one small elementary school, over ten percent of the kids had lost parents to opioid abuse. And there’s no question we in the workers’ comp world are contributing to this problem.

A colleague texted me during that session that IAIABC’s Executive Committee would do well to meet with Ms Kelly; they may well decide to reverse their decision and promulgate model language for opioids…

The following sessions detailed the cost, prevalence, and trends of opioid usage in WC.  Data on opioid usage was revealing, current, and actionable.

That was followed by two presentations by vendors – Paradigm (cat claims management) and Ameritox (urine drug testing).  Both were well-done, professional, and polished.  And totally inappropriate for WCRI.  The speakers discussed their company’s programs, provided details on their results, and shared their research, essentially marketing their services to the 350 attendees.  More to the point, their presence on the podium amounted to a subtle, if unintended, endorsement by WCRI. It would have been acceptable if their clients had presented; Paradigm has a long and successful relationship with the Travelers and Ameritox has many payer customers who have used their services for years.

Lest you, dear reader, think this is sour grapes, it is not.  As I’ve disclosed umpteen times, a competitor in the UDT space, Millennium Labs, is a consulting client.  If Millennium had asked me for my views on presenting at WCRI, I would have strongly discouraged their participation.  There are plenty of other venues where it is quite appropriate; the National WC and Disability conference, WCI, and RIMS are the top three.

WCRI is different.  And should remain so.



One thought on “WCRI Wrap-up”

  1. Absolutely on point, Joe. We have precious few ‘industry only’ events. Having customers, regulatory, state, or other clearly unbiased independent entities share experiences – good and bad – is much more to the point and goes a long way to helping others engage in open dialogue to learn more.

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Joe Paduda is the principal of Health Strategy Associates



A national consulting firm specializing in managed care for workers’ compensation, group health and auto, and health care cost containment. We serve insurers, employers and health care providers.



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